Postpartum hair loss
I met Mercy last Saturday through a friend. As we exchanged pleasantries, I couldn’t help but notice that she kept fiddling with her hair which was open and neatly held in a ponytail. ”Sorry, ”she said, ”I have been experiencing a lot of hair shedding lately, my hair just won’t stop falling off, my house is a mess, with hair all over, on the kitchen top, in the sink, in my bedroom, I find my hair on my baby’s cot and even sometimes on my little baby’s clothes, my hairline has just disappeared. I am so afraid to comb or even wash my hair nowadays lest I lose all my hair!.😟
”she sighed with resignation,” it is so annoying and stressful at the same time.” I could see the despair on her face and hear the sadness in her voice.” So sorry about the ordeal, how old is your baby?” I asked.” Little Jibril is 15 months old” Mercy said, this time her face lit up for a short moment as she spoke about her adorable son. ”My hair looked so good during my pregnancy, I really did enjoy it, but I don’t know what is happening now, ”she said shaking her head. ”everything seems to be falling apart.”
Just like Mercy, my newfound friend, pregnancy brings along an amazing feeling not to mention the thrill of the upcoming motherhood. Be it the first time or otherwise, pregnancy and giving birth is an ebullience to look up to. The arrival of the new member of the family is a whole new bundle of joy; but what happens when this culminates in hair loss? It can be devastating to say the least. Shinning some light on what really happens with be half the nine yards into the solution.
During pregnancy, the body experiences a rise in the hormone estrogen among other hormones. Estrogen is a hair-friendly hormone that makes the hair thrive by lengthening the hair’s growth phase(anagen phase). As a result, the hair appears lush, and voluminous as very few hairs are transitioning from the growth phase into the falling/shedding phase(telogen phase). It is this phenomenon that played part in Mercy’s joyous hair journey during her pregnancy.
However, after pregnancy, the estrogen hormone levels drastically drops to their pre-pregnancy levels. The hair that had been in a growing phase rapidly transitions into the falling(telogen) phase and more hair at this time is shedding from the scalp. One experiences excessive hair shedding referred to as postpartum hair loss from around 3 months after delivery and can last to as long as 1 year. Without any other aggravating factor, postpartum hair loss resolves by itself.
Why has Mercy’s hair loss persisted long past the 1-year mark into 15 months?
1. Iron/Ferritin levels:
Iron is a critical element for hair growth while ferritin refers to the protein that stores iron in the body. During the third trimester, the fetus is utilizing in abundance this element and could lead to depletion in the maternal body. Loss of blood during labour and delivery could also lead to decreased iron levels. Breastfeeding can also bring along insufficient levels of iron in the maternal body system. A decrease in Iron/ferritin levels results in excessive hair shedding which persists until corrected.
2. Gestational hyper/hypothyroidism:
Overstimulation or under stimulation of the thyroid hormone during pregnancy leads to the onset of hyperthyroidism or hyperthyroidism. This could lead to hair loss or aggravate a preexisting hair loss condition. Although most gestational conditions resolve soon after delivery, the hair loss tends to persist long after until resolved.
3. Vitamin D deficiency:
The intense fetal utilization of vitamins and minerals during the third trimester could lead to low levels of this critical vitamin in the maternal body system. Breastfeeding as well can cause the mother to experience low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D plays a significant role in maintaining the hair follicle immunity and integrity thus low levels manifest with excessive shedding as well as other forms of hair loss.
4. Improper diet:
With the coming of the new baby, it is common for the breastfeeding mother to take a back seat on her personal self-care including nutrition-wise to focus on the baby’s well-being. While this is an excellent gesture, proper nutrition while breastfeeding is vital. Lack of proper nutrition causes the body to switch to survival mode and only direct the available nutrients to the essential organs. Hair is not regarded as an essential organ thus comes last in nourishment priority. As a result, excessive hair shedding manifests as a symptom of a lack of critical elements necessary for follicle growth and development.
5. Other underlying hair loss conditions before, during or shortly after pregnancy and delivery.
Any other type of pre-existing types of hair loss such as traction alopecia which results from strenuous hairstyles, androgenetic alopecia among other hair loss conditions.
Losing hair after childbirth? seek out a trichologists review.
Disclaimer: The article was originally posted on the blog of Celestine, https://hair-and-scalp-health.blogspot.com.
Celestine is a key trichologist at HairHub Trichology Centre, a pioneer clinic in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has been extensively involved in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of all hair types of hair loss, in particular afro ethnic hair. Over the years, Celestine has appeared on TV and radio and has frequently been featured in newspaper interviews. She also had the privilege of being a keynote speaker at the first World Trichology Society Summit in May 2021.